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The Effects of Mobile Phones and Hands-Free Laws on Traffic Fatalities

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  • Kolko Jed D

    () (Public Policy Institute of California)

Abstract

Using state-level panel data on mobile phone ownership, hands-free laws, and traffic fatalities, this paper finds that mobile phone ownership is associated with higher traffic fatalities, but only in bad weather or wet road conditions. The limited experience of a few states suggests that hands-free laws reduce traffic fatalities, but again only in bad weather or wet road conditions, and possibly also in rush-hour traffic. The findings suggest that the benefits of hands-free laws depend on driving conditions, and an important policy implication is hands-free laws should be more strongly enforced when driving conditions are more difficult. These findings on hands-free laws differ from other research, which consistently finds that hands-free and handheld phone usage have similar effects on driver distraction and accident risk, calling into question the usefulness of hands-free laws.

Suggested Citation

  • Kolko Jed D, 2009. "The Effects of Mobile Phones and Hands-Free Laws on Traffic Fatalities," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 9(1), pages 1-28, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:bejeap:v:9:y:2009:i:1:n:10
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Cohen, Alma & Dehejia, Rajeev, 2004. "The Effect of Automobile Insurance and Accident Liability Laws on Traffic Fatalities," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 47(2), pages 357-393, October.
    2. Saurabh Bhargava & Vikram S. Pathania, 2013. "Driving under the (Cellular) Influence," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 5(3), pages 92-125, August.
    3. James E. Prieger & Robert W. Hahn, 2007. "Are Drivers Who Use Cell Phones Inherently Less Safe?," Applied Economics Quarterly (formerly: Konjunkturpolitik), Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 53(4), pages 327-352.
    4. Dee, Thomas S. & Grabowski, David C. & Morrisey, Michael A., 2005. "Graduated driver licensing and teen traffic fatalities," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 571-589, May.
    5. Dee, Thomas S., 1999. "State alcohol policies, teen drinking and traffic fatalities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 289-315, May.
    6. Alma Cohen & Liran Einav, 2003. "The Effects of Mandatory Seat Belt Laws on Driving Behavior and Traffic Fatalities," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(4), pages 828-843, November.
    7. Steven D. Levitt & Jack Porter, 2001. "How Dangerous Are Drinking Drivers?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(6), pages 1198-1237, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Maria De Paola & Vincenzo Scoppa & Mariatiziana Falcone, 2010. "The Deterrent Effects of Penalty Point System in Driving Licenses: A Regression Discontinuity Approach," Working Papers 201004, Università della Calabria, Dipartimento di Economia, Statistica e Finanza "Giovanni Anania" - DESF.
    2. Maria De Paola & Vincenzo Scoppa & Mariatiziana Falcone, 2013. "The deterrent effects of the penalty points system for driving offences: a regression discontinuity approach," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 45(2), pages 965-985, October.
    3. Anderson, D. Mark & Rees, Daniel I., 2015. "Per se drugged driving laws and traffic fatalities," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 122-134.
    4. D. Mark Anderson & Benjamin Hansen & Daniel I. Rees, 2013. "Medical Marijuana Laws, Traffic Fatalities, and Alcohol Consumption," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56(2), pages 333-369.
    5. Leandro Rocco & Breno Sampaio, 2016. "Are handheld cell phone and texting bans really effective in reducing fatalities?," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 51(2), pages 853-876, September.

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